1 May 2013

The Archibald Prize 2013

Sydneysiders love their Archibald and as in past years the crowds down at the Art Gallery of NSW are huge; it’s certainly a massive attraction heralding the start of autumn.  But what’s missing is any kind of buzz – the show is at best a bit ordinary.

In this the 92nd year there are fewer finalists down to 38, although there were 868 entries, and some of the more well-known subjects include Anthony Mundine, Asher Keddie, Bille Brown, Ken Done and Naomi Watts and for the first time (for me anyway) not a Politian to be seen.
The Archibald Prize is one of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art prizes. It’s awarded to the best portrait painting, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics.  Jules Fran├žois Archibald’s primary aim, through his bequest of 1919, was to foster portraiture, as well as support artists, and perpetuate the memory of great Australians.
Hugo Weaving by Del Kathryn Barton
The trend of past years seems to continue with mainly two kinds of work, the huge, over oiled type or the totally photogenic. Mind you this year most of the finalists have made use of a full colour palate – a nice change over those many sepia pencil portraits of the last few years.
The winner is full of colour and seemed poplar amongst the art gallery crowd the day I visited, although it seemed to lack soul for me. Del Kathryn Barton’s decorative, highly detailed painting of Hugo Weaving is a vibrant and joyous portrait – combining traditional painting techniques with contemporary design. This is her fourth time in the Archibald Prize which she won in 2008 with a portrait of herself with her two children.